ORLANDO, Fla.,None - The prime suspect and ex-fiance of missing Orlando mother Michelle Parker may lose custody of their twin 3-year-old children. Dale Smith Jr. had been taking care of them since her disappearance over a week ago.
However, Tuesday evening, the Florida Department of Children and Families requested and obtained a "Take into Custody Order" from the Ninth Judicial Circuit. The order grants the agency the authority to immediately place the children in temporary protective custody.
The order was requested after DCF's initial investigation into the safety of the children.
An emergency shelter hearing will take place Wednesday morning, DCF officials said. The initial hearing allows the court to address any immediate or emergency custody arrangements regarding Parker's children, said officials.
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WFTV obtained photos and videos of Smith on Tuesday.
One of the videos taken by WFTV show Smith as he walked out of his home Tuesday afternoon (watch video). It was the first time that Smith has been seen in public since he was named a suspect in Parker's disappearance.
Smith hasn't been charged with a crime, but Orlando police said they believe 40-year-old Smith knows something about Parker's disappearance. Smith has hired prominent attorney Mark NeJame.
NeJame spoke at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
"He wants to find Michelle. He wants to have closure on it as much as anybody else, and for him to be vilified as he has been for accusations to have been made against him because of his past, is wrong," said NeJame.
NeJame said Smith has asked for Texas EquuSearch to assist in the search for Parker, provided Orlando authorities approve.
Parker, 33, went missing on Nov. 17 after she appeared on a taped episode of "The People's Court" with Smith in a dispute over her lost engagement ring. A few hours after the episode aired, Parker dropped off her twins at Smith's condo.
NeJame said Smith left his home with the couple's twins at the same time Parker left his home, and said he arrived at his parents' house with the children an hour and 12 minutes later.
"Get in your car and run that track and see if you can do it. And in between, you've killed and gotten rid of, disposed of a body," NeJame said.
Parker's SUV was found the day after she went missing.
Investigators said Smith refused to take a polygraph. However, NeJame said Smith declined to take a lie detector test because polygraphs are 86-percent unreliable and not because he is hiding anything.
"If in fact someone were to take the test and fail, they are stigmatized. If they pass, the investigation continues," NeJame said.
WFTV asked several times whether Smith was caught lying to police. NeJame answered "no."
WFTV was the only crew to question Smith as he left NeJame's office in downtown Orlando, where he spent about an hour and 20 minutes.
"Dale, do you have anything you want to say at all?" asked WFTV photojournalist Ulen Hodges.
Smith did not respond.
NeJame told WFTV that Smith has given three voluntary statements to police.
Over the weekend, SWAT teams obtained a search warrant and raided the home of Smith father, Dale Smith Sr., on Rose Boulevard where Smith has been staying. The home is just two miles from the search command center on Oak Ridge Road, where Parker's cellphone stopped transmitting.
Parker's family has been confident for nearly two weeks that Smith was not involved. Now they believe he is, but they still have faith she's alive.
"You loved her at one point. Try to love her again and love those children enough to have their mother," said Parker’s sister, Lauren Erickson, during a news conference.
Parker's family said they trust Orlando police and DCF to make sure the children are safe.
Parker's family has hired Matt Morgan from the Law Offices of Morgan and Morgan as their attorney in the case.
When WFTV spoke with Parker's sister, she said her family hired an attorney so they could open a trust fund for Parker's children.
Police urge anyone with information about Parker's whereabouts to call 1-800-423-8477.
WFTV obtained interesting facts about Smith Jr.'s background:
- WFTV learned that Smith was accused 20 years ago of sexual battery, but charges were never filed.
- According to records, Smith was court martialed in 2001 on several charges, including domestic battery and drug possession. His rank was downgraded from sergeant to private.
- In 2003, Smith was dishonorably discharged from the Marines.
- During the episode of "A People's Court," Parker accused Smith of being physical and she once tried to get a restraining order.
- WFTV also obtained photos from XL106.7, with Smith competing in a 'Hot Man' competition in 2007 (see photos). The contest was believed to be around the same time Smith and Parker started dating.
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